Four Tips to Make Your Holidays More Healthy and Happy

November 21st, 2014

By Anne Brown, MD

Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is upon us, and beyond that is the mad dash to Christmas. I think I speak for many Moms in that we enter the season with hopes of beautiful decorations, fancy cookies, holiday events to enjoy, and a time to be with everyone whom we love. Unfortunately, implementing this beautiful and calm vision can turn into a stressful time of too much to do, less sleep, and several extra pounds. By the time the big day rolls around, we are often exhausted and frazzled by what we had to accomplish to pull off a successful holiday for our families.

Here are a few tips on how to avoid the holiday craze:
Tip number one is to take care of yourself. This does not have to mean time consuming bubble baths, weekly massages, or a spa weekend (this can come after the holiday!) Simple pleasures such as a five minute period to sit and stretch, a few gentle yoga poses before bed, or having a cup or tea (try leaning into the warm steam) can go a long way toward relaxation. Remember to try and walk a little bit every day – whether that is parking further away or sneaking out for 5 minutes at lunchtime. Stealing a couple of minutes of fresh air every day will provide rejuvenation. If you exercise regularly, and are worried about the seasonal time crunch, try to only cut back by a day or two or shorten your routine rather than giving it up for the holidays.

Tip number two is to maintain healthy eating. When I started to study nutrition, my family was afraid I would banish the sweets and treats of the holidays. Since real change is most effective when gradual, I added moderation and modification to the holiday food extravaganza. Instead of indulging in cookies/fudge/and various holiday sweets every day for several weeks, we limit sugar to a couple days a week. On those days, my daughters take everything out of the tins and load it onto a big platter. We then carefully select our favorites to mindfully enjoy the tastes and uniqueness of these holiday treats. On the other days, we try to come up with fun healthy deserts: cutting oranges into circles and placing drops of yogurt then raisins on them (to look like ornaments) or cutting a pear in half, and dusting it with a little confectionary sugar (snow on trees). This is the perfect time to exercise your creativity and create holiday themes out of fruits and vegetables.

Tip number three is deep breathing. The act of breathing into our bellies, trigger a response in our bodies that is relaxing. Singing is a great way to do this. Once Thanksgiving is past, my daughters and I sing Christmas Carols and holiday songs in the car everywhere we go and in the kitchen while cooking. This is a blast and tradition we cherish.

My final tip is to find a way to stop a few times every day, take a deep breath and focus on your senses. Use a few holiday items as reminders. This is a fun thing to do with kids – they love to move a couple holiday decorations around and are masters of noticing what they see, smell, hear, or feel at the moment.

To me, the things that make the holidays really special are the traditions we develop and follow year after year. Kids love routine and by creating an environment where mindful and healthy traditions flourish, not only are we enhancing our own enjoyment of the holidays, but we are also giving our children the gift of relaxation and health.

Dr. Brown is a physician at St. Mary’s Medical Associates. She earned her medical degree from the University of Vermont and completed her internship and residency in internal medicine at the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr Brown did her mind-body training through the Benson Henry Institute at Massachusetts General, and she finishes her fellowship in integrative medicine through the University of Arizona in December 2014. Dr. Brown offers mind body groups for stress reduction and will be offering integrative medicine consults starting in January 2015.

Caring for the Caregiver: A free presentation at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center

November 12th, 2014

One of the most important and frequently overlooked things a caregiver can do for their loved ones is to take good care of themselves. Often, caregivers are so focused on making sure everyone’s needs are met, that they don’t take the time to look after themselves.

If you’re a caregiver, please join us for an important free presentation on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 5:30pm. During this presentation, Yasmine King,
FNP-C, and Jennifer Hazen, BSN, RN, OCN, from St. Mary’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders will discuss:

• the physical and emotional toll of caregiving
• ways to reduce stress
• how to improve your overall health
• where to find support resources

The presentation will be held at the Lepage Large Conference Room at 99 Campus Avenue in Lewiston. Snacks will be provided. Seating for this program is limited. To reserve your seat, please call 777-8458 by November 18, 2014.

Is it a Cold or More?

October 23rd, 2014

This article, written by Jennifer Radel, orginaly appeared in the October 16, 2014 edition of Macaroni Kids Androscoggin Newsletter.

It’s fall. The leaves are showing off their brilliant hues, the air is crisp, and tasty treats made with apples and pumpkins abound. While it’s one of my favorite seasons, it does have a downside. My youngest son suffers from allergies that tend to flare up this time of year and both my boys seem to trade colds with classmates as often as they do Pokémon cards.

On Sunday, it started. My eight-year-old, Cade (the one with the allergies), sniffled and sneezed throughout the day. Monday, he was running a low-grade fever. By Tuesday the coughing fits began and Wednesday, general lethargy crept in. Typical stuff for cold and allergy season. No big deal, right?

Right, unless you are like me. After reading, watching, and listening to the news reports about the enterovirus, I’m more than a little paranoid my child will get very sick. The virus may be linked to a mysterious neurological illness causing paralysis that hospitalized a small number of children in Colorado, Massachusetts, and Michigan (authorities are still investigating a connection). Last month, a four-year-old in New Jersey died in his sleep. His only symptom his parents say was pinkeye. Another child, a 21-month old girl from Michigan succumbed to the illness this week.

So how do you know when it’s the average cold, or something more? I sought the advice of Teresita Maguire, MD from St. Mary’s Pulmonary Medicine and Infectious Disease to learn something more about this. According to Dr. Maguire, enteroviruses are quite common and occur mainly during summer and fall. It has been in the news a lot lately because cases of the enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), which is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses, have been significantly on the rise across the US this year.

“Most people who are infected,” explained Dr. Maguire, “do not have symptoms or they experience only mild cold-like symptoms such as fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body aches. In general, infants, children, and teenagers, especially those with asthma, are more susceptible to severe symptoms because they haven’t developed immunity or protection yet from previous exposures to these viruses.”

Dr. Maguire suggests keeping a vigilant eye on your kids. If their fever spikes, have difficulty breathing (or are wheezing), or show signs of weakness, seek medical treatment immediately. “Consider EV-D68 as a possible cause of an unexplained acute severe respiratory illness even if a patient has no fever,” said Dr. Maguire. “This can cause a bad cold, but in children with asthma, it can exacerbate their asthma to the point where they may need medical attention.”

There are some things you can do to protect you and your family, and the community, from the spread of EV-D68 and other respiratory diseases. Just like with the common cold and flu, the CDC says:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (tell your kids to sing the “Happy Birthday” song while they wash to ensure they are washing long enough). Use a liquid hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
• Avoid touching your face (especially eyes, mouth, and nose) with unwashed hands
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick, such as hugging and hand shaking
• Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or shirt sleeve, not your hands
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick
• Stay at home when you are sick

Reach out to your primary care provider if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s health. As parents, that’s all we can do. While we’d like to keep our kids safely in a bubble, we’d miss out on all the fall fun of leaf peeping, apple picking, and pumpkin carving.

Jennifer Radel has been the Community Relations Manager at St. Mary’s Health System in Lewiston, Maine for nine years.

On a daily basis she gets to work with some of the best health care providers in the State of Maine, and routinely picks their brains for the best ways to keep her family and friends healthy.

Jennifer is a mom of two boys and wife who volunteers with several community groups. She is on the Board of Directors for Literacy Volunteers-Androscoggin.

Prior to coming to St. Mary’s Jennifer spent nearly 15 years working in television, mainly as a news producer in upstate New York and Portland, Maine. During that time she received the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence, among other awards for journalism.

9th Annual Chefs Soirée a Success

September 30th, 2014

St. Mary’s Health System’s Nutrition Center held the 9th Annual Chefs Soirée, Exploring Our Roots, earlier this month. The event was inspired by the 125th anniversary of St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and the 15th anniversary of the Nutrition Center’s Lots to Gardens program. Courses throughout the evening featured root vegetables and other culinary delights from local farms and producers.

Chef Paul Landry of Fish Bones American Grill, Cody LaMontagne, co-founder of Forage Market, Karen Bolduc of South Auburn Organic Farm and Gerry Walsh of Forage Market educated and entertained guests with their collective knowledge and great food.

Paul Drowns, the Nutrition Center's  Community Cooking Educator (left) and Fiston Mubalama Lowitiwiya, a Nutrition Center Fellow (right), share their culinary expertise with guests of the 9th Annual Chefs Soirée at the St. Mary's Nutrition Center.

Paul Drowns, the Nutrition Center’s Community Cooking Educator (left) and Fiston Mubalama Lowitiwiya, a Nutrition Center Fellow (right), share their culinary expertise with guests of the 9th Annual Chefs Soirée at the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center.

Sarah Spring of Spring Day Creamery in Durham and Pat O’Brien of Fiore Artisan Olive Oils & Vinegars in Freeport offered samples of their product for tasting. A display of recently harvested vegetables and flowers from 4 Season Farm Market in New Auburn gave the Nutrition Center a market atmosphere. The Nutrition Center’s Community Cooking Educator, Paul Drowns, and Fiston Mubalama Lowitiwiya, a Nutrition Center Fellow, set up the Center’s bicycle cart kitchen outside and served Beet Carpaccio with Caramelized Onion Marmalade.

The four course meal featured roasted butternut squash, beet and goat cheese galette with a salad made with South Auburn Organic Farm’s mixed greens and Spring Day Creamery’s award winning blue cheese and warm apple cider dressing. Chicken kebobs with Ricker Hill Farm’s apples, and turnips were served with mushrooms (Maine forged) risotto and Fiore’s Wild Mushroom & Sage Olive Oil. The third course featured North Star Sheep Farm grilled lamb burgers topped with Pineland Farm’s feta cheese and greens drizzled with a mint chimichurri aioli and served with salad nicoise. Gerry Walsh of Forage Market created a Chocolate Torte made simply with eggs, chocolate and cream to finish off the evening.

Susan Hall of The Vault, a specialty wine and craft beer shop in Lewiston pared each course with wine. Baxter Beer of Lewiston donated four varieties of craft beers to the evening’s festivities.

The proceeds will support St. Mary’s Nutrition Center and its programming. The Nutrition Center serves as a hub for healthy food initiatives across Lewiston and Androscoggin County. Key programs include the food pantry, cooking and garden education programs for people of all ages, the Lewiston Farmers’ Market, and Lots to Gardens, which uses downtown gardens to create access to fresh local food, empower youth, and to build community. For more information contact the Nutrition Center at 207-513-3848.

Nutrition in Cancer Prevention and Cancer Care

September 8th, 2014

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, one of the best things you can do to support a positive outcome is eating healthy. Nutrient-rich foods provide the resources your body needs to function at its best. Some of the benefits of good nutrition for people with cancer are:

• Decreasing the risk of infection
• Improving strength and increasing energy
• Maintaining body mass and increasing new tissue growth
• Speeding the recovery process

Join experts from St. Mary’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders for a free presentation about cancer and nutrition. We’ll discuss nutrition to prevent cancer, foods that contain “cancer killing” antiangiogenic properties, and choosing the right oil. The presentation will take place on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 5:30 pm at St. Mary’s Nutrition Center, 208 Bates Street, Lewiston.

Dr. Yelena Patsiornik, a hematologist/oncologist with the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, will discuss the science behind well-balanced diets for cancer patients and the important role it plays in your care and in preventing the disease. Our oncology certified nurses, Linda Merchant, Stephanie Buswell will prepare easy and nutrient-dense recipes, and clinical dietician Karen Emmi will answer your questions about nutrition.

Seating is limited so call today to make your reservation 777-8593.

More Than 100 People Attend St. Mary’s Nutrition Center’s Annual Community Dinner

August 28th, 2014
The crowd of community members passes through a buffet line of healthy food prepared by Cabot’s Gratitude Grille and the Nutrition Center’s Summer Youth Gardeners.

The crowd of community members passes through a buffet line of healthy food prepared by Cabot’s Gratitude Grille and the Nutrition Center’s Summer Youth Gardeners.

More than 100 community members, staff, youth, volunteers, supporters, and gardeners, attended the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center’s Annual Community Dinner on last week to celebrate all the hard work and community service that has been accomplished this growing season. This annual dinner highlights the Nutrition Center’s Lots to Gardens program; attendees included the Youth Gardeners and their families, some of the 115 families that garden in the community garden plots in downtown Lewiston and at Meadowview and Hillview housing complexes, and others who have participated in or supported the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center, Lots to Gardens, and the St. Mary’s Food Pantry over the year.

The evening was led by the Summer Youth Gardeners (SYGs). Much of the menu was locally grown and developed and prepared from scratch by the SYGs. It also reflected their diverse culinary backgrounds, including Chinese chicken and rice, Somali chicken and rice, Sahro’s cabbage dish, Fiston’s braised greens, green beans, blueberry banana smoothie, and beet raspberry brownies. True to

Community Gardener, Kirk Jones of Lewiston gets ready to enjoy his dinner.

Community Gardener, Kirk Jones of Lewiston gets ready to enjoy his dinner.

the Nutrition Center’s mission, the door prize, won by Community Gardener Kirk Jones, was a basket of fresh veggies and Lewiston Farmers’ Market gift certificates.

In addition, as a special treat this year, Cabot Cheese joined the fun with their Farmers’ Gratitude Grille, which is a traveling kitchen, conceived by the farm families who own Cabot, to thank volunteers and community-service-based organizations for the extraordinary work they do. They served pimento grilled cheese sandwiches, salad, and oatmeal raisin cookies from their mobile kitchen in the Nutrition Center’s parking lot.

The diverse group of Summer Youth Gardeners also developed and showcased a short presentation about their summer experience in the program. The presentation included skits about teenage experiences and how they are using their voices to speak up about injustices and to treat one another with more kindness. Several youth also told personal stories and gave thanks for all they learned in the program, including Mohamed Abdullahi. “Although I will not be working with Lots to Gardens anymore, the experiences, the laughter, and the learning I will take with me. I am grateful for learning how to cook healthy food, and food from other cultures, and for the gardening skills I will use later in life. I now pay more attention to how I treat people. I’m a better friend, better son, and a better person. I’m happy that Lots to Gardens is part of the community, and that the community is part of Lots to Gardens,” said Abdullahi.

Along with the youth, Kirsten Walter, Nutrition Center Director, explained that the Nutrition Center’s Lots to Gardens youth programs are open to Lewiston/Auburn area youth between the ages of 14-18. Through the program, they get job training and experience, learn about gardening, nutrition, and cooking, and participate in leadership development training. She thanked the individuals, businesses and organizations that provided youth sponsorships this year, including Agren Appliance; Lake Auburn Half Marathon; Luke Robinson and Wolfpack Fitness; Fred and Janet Bishop; Russ Donahue, Elizabeth Keene and employees at St. Mary’s Health System. “Sponsoring one youth position costs $1,200 and is a great way to give back and engage a young person in developing lifelong healthy habits and becoming an agent of change in their community,” said Walter. Interested individuals can contact Walter to learn more.

The St. Mary’s Nutrition Center promotes community health through organizing, advocacy, and education. It is home to the St. Mary’s Food Pantry, Lots to Gardens, Lewiston Farmers’ Market, and garden, cooking, and nutrition education programs for adults, teens, and kids. For more information, please visit or call 207-513-3848.

Lose with Me!

August 15th, 2014

Want to lose some weight? Don’t go it alone, let HealthSteps, an award winning health education and exercise program, help you. Join them for Lose with Me! a 12-week session focused on helping you obtain and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Classes are taught by Jennifer Smith and include goal setting to get you started, exercise planning to get you moving, nutrition education to ensure you eat well, food journaling to keep you on track, and peer support to keep you motivated! If you’re looking to lose weight as a part of building a healthier lifestyle for you and/or your family then, Lose with Me! is the program for you!

Class Time: Wednesdays, 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm
September 17 – December 3
Location: Saint Hyacinth Conference Room, 96 Campus Ave., 2nd Floor
Cost: $99
Registration Required 777-8898

HealthSteps is part of the Prevention & Wellness Services offered through St. Mary’s Health System.

Call today and start your way to a new healthy lifestyle in which you will feel better, have more energy, meet great people, and enjoy exercise even more! For more information or to register, call HealthSteps at 777-8898 or visit them on the web at:

Instructor Jennifer SmithJennifer Smith holds a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion, a bachelor’s degree in Sports Medicine with a concentration in nutrition and a minor in education, and is a nationally certified personal trainer, group exercise instructor, speed coach, and tobacco cessation helper. Jennifer will help you review your eating behaviors and will instruct you as to how your eating habits affect your metabolism. She will teach you the skills you need including reading food labels, meal planning, portion control, and more to keep you eating healthy beyond the 12-week program. She’ll also help you to identify your barriers to exercise, to brainstorm strategies to overcome such obstacles, and to set goals beyond the 12-week program.

Back-to-School Sleep Routine by Jennifer Radel

August 15th, 2014

The lazy days of summer are coming to a close. School will be starting soon and it will be “early to bed, early to rise” once again. I think I can speak for most parents when I say that getting the kids back into the school year routine is challenging at best making mornings in particular, miserable. This year I vowed to make it easier for all of us. I’m fortunate enough that I work in healthcare and have access to the experts. I solicited some advice from sleep and behavioral medicine specialist, Thaddeus Shattuck, MD from St. Mary’s Center for Sleep Disorders.

First of all, how much sleep do children need? “While every child is different,” says Dr. Shattuck, “generally speaking, children between the ages of 5 and 12 should get somewhere around 10 to 11 hours of sleep, ages 12 to18, about 8.5 to 9.5 hours sleep.”

If your kids are used staying up until 9:00pm in the summer, don’t expect them to suddenly fall asleep at 8pm. A simple hour change can translate into sleepless nights. We all know a child who is not well rested will have difficulty learning and adjusting to a new teacher and classroom routine.

Dr. Shattuck suggests gradually setting back bed time. Put your kids to bed 15 minutes earlier each night and wake them up 15 minutes earlier each morning. Ideally you’d like them adjusted to their schedule a week before the start of school.

Practicing good sleep hygiene is also helpful. Start winding down after dinner. Taking a bath, reading a book, and listening to soothing music will help make the transition from busy day to restful night easier. Then, make sure your child’s room is cool, quiet and dark or dimly lit at bedtime.

“Turn off all your electronics an hour before bedtime,” says Dr. Shattuck. “Light from a tablet, laptop, or smart phone is at the blue end of the color spectrum. This color is common in daylight, but not at night. Using these devices before bed can disrupt your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock. Don’t leave these devices charging next to your bed either. Even small amounts of that light can trick your brain into thinking it’s morning and wake you from a peaceful sleep.”

In a nutshell, the key to a good night’s sleep is having a bedtime routine and keeping it year round. “Whether it is summer, Christmas vacation, or the weekend, maintaining the nighttime
ritual is best for your child,” says Dr. Shattuck. “You can still have the occasional late night to watch the fireworks or tell ghost stories by the campfire, but try to get back on track after that.”
Something to keep in mind for next summer!

Now, off to complete my back-to-school shopping list.


Dr. Thaddeus Shattuck is the Medical Director at the Center for Sleep Disorders at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center. He earned his master’s degree in Public Health from The Dartmouth Institute and his medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, New Hampshire. He completed his fellowship in Sleep Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

Dr. Shattuck is the president of the Maine Sleep Society and a member of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He is board certified in Sleep Medicine and Psychiatry.

Jennifer Radel has been the Community Relations Manager at St. Mary’s Health System in Lewiston, Maine for eight years.  On a daily basis she gets to work with some of the best health care providers in the State of Maine, and routinely picks their brains for the best ways to keep her family and friends healthy. Jennifer is a mom of two boys and wife who volunteers with several community groups. She is on the Board of Directors for Literacy Volunteers-Androscoggin. Prior to coming to St. Mary’s, Jennifer spent nearly 15 years working in television, mainly as a news producer in upstate New York and Portland, Maine. During that time she received the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence among other awards for journalism.


The 4-1-1 on Sun Protection

July 18th, 2014

Many Mainers endure the harsh winters because the summers are extraordinary here. The icy winter is a mere memory and “mud season” has subsided. For these precious few months we strip ourselves of our wooly layers and muck boots. Boating, hiking, camping, and swimming are often the order of the day. All this outdoor fun is wonderfully rejuvenating for body, mind, and spirit. However, all that time in the sun can have a detrimental effect on unprotected skin including: burning, premature aging, and development of pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions.

Sunscreens and sunblocks are a known, effective means of reducing exposure to UV rays. Visit any drug store and there is veritable mountain of choices using terms such as “SPF,” “sunblock,” “sunscreen,” “broad spectrum,” “water-resistant,” etc. So, what’s it all mean? Here’s the 4-1-1 on sun protection:

SPF refers to the Sun Protective Factor of sunscreen, essentially its ability to block UVB rays, not UVA. However, the SPF numbers can be confusing. A lotion with an SPF of 30 does not have twice the amount of protective power than SPF 15. In actuality, a lotion with an SPF 15 blocks approximately 93% of UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks approximately 97%, while SPF 50 blocks approximately 98%.

Sunscreens vs. Sunblock
While sunscreen and sunblock both protect against sun damage, these terms are not interchangeable.

Sunscreen provides a colorless layer on the skin that absorbs most (but not all!) of the harmful UV rays. The lotion needs time to seep into your skin to form that protective layer so it must be applied 20 minutes before exposure to the sun. After about 1 ½ to 2 hours of being outdoors, you’ll want to reapply.

In June 2012, the FDA established a new standard for new labeling sunscreen to include “Broad Spectrum.” “Broad Spectrum” means its ability to absorb both UVB and UVA rays. Combine that with an SPF 15 (or higher) and you will be protected from sunburn, and, when used as directed, will reduce your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. Sunscreen not labeled “Broad Spectrum” or that has an SPF value lower than15 will only prevent sunburn.

Sunblock, often made from titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, does what its name describes. It is physical barrier that blocks UV rays from being absorbed by the skin. While sunblock offers better protection against the sun, it leaves an opaque layer of lotion on the skin – not a look most beach-goers are going for but a great option for very young children or those with significant risk for skin cancer.

Water Resistant
The FDA requires sunscreen manufacturers to let consumers know how long they will have the SPF protection printed on the label while swimming or perspiring. Two times are permitted based on current testing methods: 40 minutes or 80 minutes. This is what is considered “water resistant.”

The best protection is to use these products in conjunction with the proper clothing: wide brimmed hats, long sleeved shirts, and pants. Keeping out of the sun altogether is another option. Not ideal given our short Maine summers, but better that the consequences: sun damage or, worse, skin cancer.

The Clinic at WalMart will be open this July 4th

July 3rd, 2014

A reminder this holiday, the Clinic at Walmart provides walk-in care for your non-emergency care. These can be conditions like common colds, sore throats, ear aches, etc…

Clinic Hours:

Friday, July 4th – 11:00 am to 5:00 pm

Saturday – 8:00 am to 6 pm

Sunday – 11:00 am to 5:00 pm

The clinic is located at 100 Mount Auburn Avenue in Auburn. The number is 330-3900.